Double Opt-In vs. Single Opt-In – Email Thursday

TOPICSEmail Marketing


So if you have an email program (which you should) and you offer the ability for people to subscribe or opt-in to a newsletter or other form of promotional communication (which you should), you’re likely familiar with the option of offering a single opt-in or a double opt-in. All ESPs have this choice, some defaulting to single and others to double. I guess for those of you who don’t know, single opt-in is where a user can sign up to your promotional email channel and by simply entering their information, they are subscribed. A double opt-in begins the same with a user entering their information in the same way, but instead if instantly being opted-in, there is an additional step. In this additional step, an email is sent to the email address at which the user registered to receive promotional emails. This email usually includes a link to verify the email address and to confirm that you do, in fact, want to be subscribed to this email channel.

The question is, which to choose? In order to make a decision, it is important to weigh the pros and cons of both options. Let’s begin with Single opt-in.

Single opt-in pros:

  • It’s faster
  • It means that everyone who signs up is instantly subscribed. No immediate attrition.
  • It requires the user to take one less step in order to receive your communications.
  • It allows the first official communication with the new user to be your welcome message thus starting off the conversation with a strategic and branded communication.

However, there are some cons too.

  • Someone can sign up with an email address that doesn’t belong to them. This can result in increased SPAM complaints since the people who DO own the email address used didn’t actually sign up.
  • If users are default opted-in at checkout during an order, they may not see the pre-checked box and can unsubscribe or mark as SPAM upon receiving their first promotional email or newsletter.
  • Single opt-ins can also result in an email list that is far less qualified

Now, let’s look at double opt-in.

With double opt-in, you get an entirely different set of pros and cons. And in fact, some ESPs require a double opt-in. Let’s dive in.

Pros of double opt-in:

  • HIGHLY qualified leads. This is the #1 benefit to this approach. Users who complete the registration process really do want to hear from you or your brand.
  • It weeds out the fraud by not allowing the use of someone else’s address. Sure, someone could create a web-based email account and use this to sign-up just to receive an option, but that takes WAY more effort and a double-opt in won’t stop the potential abuse by these folks. They are determined.
  • It shows the new user that you are serious about privacy and data quality

The cons:

  • Many users will not click on the link in the confirmation email. I’ve seen an over 50% attrition rate due to this approach meaning that over 50% of users who signed up did NOT complete the registration process.
  • It requires the user to take an additional step when immediately after telling you they want to be signed up.
  • The verification email may not be delivered immediately. Even a 5 minute lapse can hugely affect the completion rate. Think about how often you may fill out a form and either move on or get distracted and leave the computer in the ensuing 5 minutes.
  • If deliverabilty is an issue with the ESP you’re using, the verification email may never be delivered to the inbox.
  • With all of the new smart filters in today’s webmail services such as Google’s Priority Inbox, the verification email may gut buried amongst all of the “other” email in your inbox.
  • If the email marketer behind the email program makes poor decisions about what “From” address the email originates from, the verification email may never reach your inbox.

I find it ironic that one of the challenges the double opt-in faces is the one of the main reasons it exists: to avoid SPAM. Asking users to double opt-in to avoid SPAM may see the verification email get caught in a SPAM filter.

The long and short of it is that you and your email marketing team need to discuss the pros and cons of each approach and decide what is best for you and your business. You know your customers and potential customers the best, and understanding how they will react most favorably to your initiatives is what will drive the best results.